Park Faces More Jail Time as Hopes for Pardon Fade

  • By Choi Seung-hyun

    August 30, 2019 12:38

    Ex-President Park Geun-hye could face yet more jail time after the Supreme Court on Thursday sent back the bribery case involving her, her toxic confidante Choi Soon-sil and Samsung chief Lee Jae-yong back to a lower court.

    The top court ruled that all W8.6 billion Park and Choi solicited from Samsung's company coffers was a straight-up bribe in return for Park helping finagle Lee's ascendancy to the conglomerate's leadership (US$1=W1,214).

    It also ruled that the bribery case should not have been lumped together with the other charges Park was convicted of since the law states that bribery of a public official must be tried separately.

    The resulting retrial is likely to add a fresh jail sentence on top of the 25 years she is already serving, reducing the chances of a pardon some die-hard supporters among opposition lawmakers have been raising.

    They had hoped that the Supreme Court ruling would deliver a final ruling in the massive corruption scandal that brought Park down, clearing the way for President Moon Jae-in to grant the customary pardon that has been doled out to every one of Korea's jailbird presidents so far.

    But now that will have to wait at least until the fresh trial is over since any case must have gone through all stages of appeal before a presidential pardon can even be considered.

    Lee Kyung-jae, a lawyer representing Choi Soon-sil, speaks to reporters in front of the Supreme Court in Seoul on Thursday. /Yonhap

    Some supporters believe there is still a chance that a court could eventually suspend Park's sentence because she has been having health problems.

    The opposition had apparently hoped that a pardon would come before the general election next year and magically energize their floundering ranks.

    One opposition lawmaker said, "Whether the Moon government will grant her a pardon depends on its political motives, but her sentence should be suspended as soon as possible on humanitarian grounds given her health and old age."

    Park is 67 and has been complaining of back pain.

    Another opposition lawmakers said if Park is released on parole before the general election next year, "that even alone would have a huge impact on the opposition camp."

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